WOLF retro DESIGN REVIEW. 13th July 2022
Collectible or Junk? Does anyone want a Mint Master keyboard?
A retro review looks at products that are at least over ten years old from a present-day WOLF design perspective. While the technology and fashion of the period influence design, and are taken into consideration, great design ideas will transcend their eras to be timeless.
Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight from the perspective of a designer’s mind and eyes.
As with most reviews the focus is on the design and its evolution within the industry. The functioning systems and sound quality are not necessarily considered.
The KX76 is a 76 key master Keyboard released in 1985.
Price and Availability.
Master Keyboards are from a time when most synthesizers had only 61 keys and musicians invested in tone modules to save on space. This is not so relevant today and that has kept most Master Keyboards in the dark. You could pick up a KX76 for as little as a few hundred dollars. For a collector a mint one in original factory case could be worth several hundred dollars.
The KX76 was the twin smaller brother to the KX88 which was larger and heavier with 88 piano style keys. According to our research this was Yamaha’s first ever 76 key controller keyboard, and also their last.
First impression/ Delight
The KX76 appears as an evolution of the DX7. With a proper LCD screen, this could have been a 76 key version of the DX7 with dual sound capabilities. A new flagship however, would have to wait another year until the DX7IID/FD synths were released.
For us this therefore remains as a design link from the original DX7 to the second generation DX7 MKII. Black was on its way in.
Exterior Design Review
Yamaha had finally retired its browns and black was back. Apart from the colour the most striking feature is the flat membrane panel as seen on the original DX7, very novel in the early 80s. The graphics are of a high-quality print and the bright colours look good.
Despite the layout and design being minimal this keyboard still lacks a certain sleekness. The flat membrane panel does not perfectly harmonize with the rest of the body that is almost clunky in its squareness. The 4 visible screws on the front panel together with the visible hinges on the rear panel look too industrial for our liking.
We like the corrugated detailing on the underside of the end panels, a detail that would continue into the new flagship synthesizers in 1986.
The construction and materials are identical to those on the DX7. The body is robust and composed of solid industrial quality steel face plates and rigid plastic end panels. It was designed to survive studios and concerts. The membrane panel is the weakest part of the construction and mileage can be determined from the amount of ware on this panel. Most will have rips, and ripples where buttons have been pressed thousands of times.
Another new introduction was the slight graininess in the black paint finish which would also find its way on to the second generation of DX7 synths in 1986.
While the flush buttons were quite futuristic back in the day, they don’t feel natural and there is a tendency to over press them. It’s not surprising that Yamaha never used this technology again on other keyboards.
Having 76 keys would have been very useful back in the days when most had only 61. A blue LCD screen to match those blue buttons would have been very cool, but perhaps the technology was not yet feasible?
Desirability / Collectability and what to look for.
We are not sure how popular these were when new, and certainly there is limited use for them today. Who wants a big and heavy keyboard that has no sounds? The KX76 is more of a curious piece of vintage gear which certain collectors may fancy.
WORD OF THE WOLF
From a design perspective the KX keyboards are unique and have their place in the evolution of Yamaha synthesizer design. As a functional or collectible piece it has to rate fairly low in our opinion.
Original factory hard case (LC-KX76) is super rare and sold originally for 45,000 Yen.
Left- owner’s manual, Right- original brochure
A Japanese catalog from July 1986 features the KX Master keyboards on page 21 and features the hard case in the bottom corner.
A Yamaha Catalog promoting the KX76 on stage.
WOLF DESIGN EXCELLENCE SCORE = 6.0
The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.